the symbolic and the utilitarian

There is a dimension of the alienation from the happiness culture which seeks, in the mythic, to re-discover the human limit. At first, this might seem an entirely reactionary program. Yet it turns out not to be so simple.

The symbolic definitely does battle with the utilitarian. The two arise in a shared cultural space. And the fatal tendency of the utilitarian to take its claim to the concrete, its grasp of pleasure and pain, and turn them into abstractions – the decisive step of which is turning them into units, as if, like a stream of light in Newton’s sense, we were talking about corpuscles – means that utilitarianism has a secret need of symbols. On the side of myth, however, the tendency is to look for the secret histories of the great tradition – surely there is a minotaur of some kind at the center of the encyclopedia. This brings us, by sure steps that have been repeated over and over again, to conspiracy and chance.To which the gnostic historian must dedicate, finally, his narrative, these being his tropes for cause.